A name change comes with a new focus for one of Ennis’ oldest congregations.

First Baptist Church has a different look these days. CrossPoint Baptist Church is still at the corner of Dallas and Baylor, and still has Pastor Mitch Chapman at the helm.

But there’s a renewed commitment to the community for the church, which recently painted its youth bus with attention-getting Christian graffiti and fiery flames.

“People really look when that bus goes by,” said Chapman.

 The decision to change the church’s name from looking back at the past to looking forward to service - and even the youthful graffiti of the bus  is just a small part of the inner changes occurring for the congregation, he said.

The question they asked themselves: If the doors were to close tomorrow, would anyone in the community notice?

The answer to that came in heightened efforts to be a pragmatic help to the community, in light of Jesus’ assurance that when his followers help even the humblest child or extend a drink of water, food or clothing, they’re actually helping him.

For example, at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, the church did a uniform swap during vacation Bible school. Parents could bring used uniforms in and swap them for bigger sizes their children had grown into.

“It went really well – we had several students clothed that way,” said co-organizer Renae Stiff.

Then at Christmas, Stiff had an epiphany.

She was riding along (for the first time) with Jeff and Hope Evans to downtown Dallas on their annual yuletide mission to find homeless people and deliver blankets and mitts and coats and prayers to them. A sort of Good King Wenceslas thing.

“We passed out blankets, hats, gloves, used coats,” she recalled.

“We prayed with some people and talked to some others.”

She was struck by the utter normalcy of the homeless people she was meeting.

“You imagine the homeless people under the bridges down there to be kind of crazy. These people were not that way … they were so average and so normal, it was scarry to think that it can happen to anybody,” Stiff said.

As they visited with the homeless that day, handing out blankets and mitts, she noticed a common thread. Almost to the person, they asked about backpacks.

That was how the homeless carried their meager worldly possessions.

Which got Stiff thinking about the backpacks often discarded at the end of every school year.

“Many parents don’t make their kids use the same backpacks each year – they always get new. If we could just get all those used backpacks … so I came up with the idea to not to not only ask for school uniforms at the end of the school year,” she said.

Jeff and Hope Evans both teach Sunday school at CrossPoint. Jeff sees a great deal of financial pain in so many Ennis families, and he’s hoping the larger community will rally to help provide gently used items that meet EISD school uniform policies: shirts, pants, belts, that sort of thing.

“ I know right now times are really tough because of the economy in general. We just felt this was one area we could help in,” he said. “Parents need as much help as they can get.”

 Hope agreed.

“So many people are having such a struggle and a hard time. If there’s anything we can do to help alleviate some of the pressure at home, this can be a great blessing to many,” she said. “Our goal is to help the families and to help the kids get proud of themselves as they get dressed up for school.” 

Project co-founder Amy Davis  said that as a former foster parent, she sees the amount of difference it makes to have a project that benefits the kids.  And having the right things to wear at school makes a huge difference, she said.

“I think it helps them fit in with everyone at school,” said Davis, who hails from a family of 12 children.

“I never said no to a hand-me-down. And most of the things we get are in great condition.”

For additional information, contact CrossPoint Baptist Church or call 972-358-8887.

E-mail J.Louise at jlouise.larson@wninews.com